Just recently, I posted the following message on Facebook:
When I was growing up, it was actually true that “it takes a village to raise a child” and that is something that is good and I appreciate it.
I do however believe that those of us who grew up that way are often more burdened by a chronic need to please other people. Because so many people had an input in your development and upbringing, it can be hard to finally stand up and define yourself for yourself.
I think it is still wise to listen to advice and counsel from people (a select few) but we must all come to a point when we stand up and decide for ourselves how we will show up in life and we have to take responsibility for our lives, our actions and the path that we choose.
I also posted a reminder to myself and my Facebook friends and family” “What other people think of you is none of your business”.
The reason why I wanted to share these messages is because I have observed that many of us walk around with a “monkey on our back”. The monkey is a voice that questions everything we do by asking “what will people say?” The “monkey” doesn’t question whether what you’re about to do is right or wrong, or whether it is appropriate for you or not; instead it uses a vague group of overly opinionated and judgmental people as the decision maker in our lives.
It is normal for human beings to want to belong and to avoid making devastating mistakes and or humiliating and embarrassing themselves but when we fear that imagined scenario, it can take over our lives. Being afraid to do something because of “what people will say” can keep you stuck in a life of perceived comfort. The problem with this said comfort is that it is stagnant and you do not grow, as long as you stay there.
Your life will change when you dare to step up and take a risk or two. How about writing that article you’re afraid people will criticize or laugh at? How about wearing that out fit that you think people will think is “too much”? You can even go so far as starting your own business or going on that date with that person you like. The list is endless! What is important is realizing that being too concerned about what people think of you and your life choices can be both crippling and suffocating.
Learn to listen to your own inner voice about what direction your life should take. Sure, you can still get advice from the people who care about you and you can still value their input and opinions, but ultimately, you have final say about the direction of your life. Your opinion about yourself and your life is the one that ultimately counts.
This week, pay attention to your thoughts. If you want to step out and do something different or something that feels scary, watch your thoughts. Do you ask yourself what people will say, think and how they will react? Is that the only reason why you won’t take that risk? If so, I encourage you to shake it off and press on!
You’re going to make mistakes and some of the risks you take won’t pay off, but guess what? Some will! That is part of life, living and growing. You only have one life to live; live it fully and authentically and shut that monkey up!
Nomalanga helps Black women thrive in their lives and careers. She is a Social Commentator, an Editor at Your Black World , a former College Professor and Mrs Botswana. Visit Nomalanga’s Facebook page or Follow her on Twitter